Westminster layoffs taken back

By Shanna O’Mara

Westminster Choir College (WCC) faculty can toss their formidable pink slips in the trash – for now.

In an email from President Gregory Dell’Omo this week, it was stated that the layoff notices issued in October 2017 to 30 full-time faculty members on the Princeton campus have been rescinded. Dell’Omo said the transition of Westminster from Rider to Kaiwen Education will not occur before the end of the academic year. Therefore, the notices – which read that if the sale is completed by then, WCC faculty members would no longer be Rider employees as of Aug. 31, 2018 – are no longer applicable.

Though some find hope in the fact that Rider will continue to operate the choir college through this summer, others are not satisfied with the inconsistent news coming forward about the sale.

“Dell’Omo claims his reason is another revision to the timeline for the sale, yet Dean [of Westminster College of the Arts Marshall] Onofrio told the Westminster community on Feb. 23 Westminster would be part of Rider in 2018,” said Elizabeth Scheiber, president of Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

The withdrawal of the pink slips comes just two days before the Board of Trustees and AAUP were scheduled to meet with an arbitrator to discuss the contractual validity of the original notices.

“Without doubt, this is because [Dell’Omo] knew the administration would have lost their case,” Scheiber wrote.

Dell’Omo reminded the Rider community in his email that new notices will likely be delivered to the WCC faculty at the start of the 2018-19 academic year “as the transition timetable becomes clearer.”

“We understand that when this occurs, Westminster faculty will also receive a conditional offer of employment at Westminster, contingent upon several factors such as a successful completion of the transaction,” he wrote.

Scheiber said retracting the layoffs “without settling the underlying issue” is problematic, but Dell’Omo pointed out that Kaiwen has stated its intention to extend employment offers to all current WCC faculty and staff.

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